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More children talking to ChildLine about suicide

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Media captionSue Minto from ChildLine says children often need someone to listen, not give advice

The counselling service ChildLine had more than 34,000 consultations with children who talked about killing themselves in 2013/14, it has revealed.

The number of such consultations has increased by 116% since 2010/2011.

The NSPCC - which runs ChildLine - said that most of the children were aged between 12 and 15.

Sue Minto, head of ChildLine, said social media was making the problem worse because it meant young people were unable to escape from bullying.

"When I was a child you could go home, shut the door and you would have some escape and some release and a chance to pull yourself together again," she said.

"That doesn't happen for our children and young people. They live in a highly pressurised world where the internet never sleeps and even if they turn off their phone, it's still there waiting for them."

'Alone and isolated'

The figures come from a new report entitled On the Edge - ChildLine spotlight: Suicide.

The report also says the highest number of consultations on suicide - either conducted on the telephone or online - were on Sundays and Mondays.

ChildLine said it received calls from young people for various reasons but suicide was the only topic in which it had seen a significant rise in the number of people coming forward.

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A 17-year-old girl who did not want to be named told BBC Radio 4's Today programme she had attempted to kill herself after being bullied at school.

"I felt alone and isolated - I wasn't happy because the bullying followed me everywhere and I didn't really have an escape," she said.

"I thought 'What's the point in being alive if nobody likes me?'. I thought 'Why am I still here - we're all going to die anyway so does it really matter if I go now'."

She is now getting help from counsellors.

'Offer support'

From April 2013 to April 2014, ChildLine held 34,517 counselling sessions with children who talked about suicide. Six thousand of these children had told a counsellor they had previously attempted suicide.

ChildLine said six in every 10 counselling sessions for suicide involved 12 to 15-year-olds.

Year Sessions where children talked about suicide
2010-2011 15994
2011-2012 22006
2012-2013 29163
2013-2014 34517

This year, more 15-year-olds were counselled than any other age group. Previously, the most prominent age was 17-year-olds.

There has also been an increase in counselling sessions for children aged 11 or younger - although they account for just 2% of all sessions.

One in three young people counselled about suicide also mentioned self-harm in 2013/14, an increase of 29% compared with 2012/2013.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that suicide rates for 15 to 19-year-olds remained broadly consistent between 2000-2012.

ONS figures show that 125 young people within that age range killed themselves in 2012.

Esther Rantzen, journalist and founder of ChildLine, said: "We must learn from what they are telling us, and persuade them not to feel fearful or ashamed to tell others of their feelings.

"The first step is to make sure that young people have sufficient support around them. And so our report offers a wealth of guidance to parents, carers and professionals on where to seek help and how to open up these critical conversations with young people."

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